Sunday, 23 November 2014

Top of the Pops Rebel

Many thanks again to Neil B for coming to the Top of the Pops rescue by making this unusual edition from 22nd November 1979 available ~ it won't be shown on BBC4 due to it being hosted by DLT, but due to a BBC strike at the time he only appears in the form of a ghostly voice-over. For the chart rundown were are treated to Whole Lotta Love (hurray!) and the only new studio performance, albeit without an audience, comes from The Pretenders.

I'm a Top of the Pops rebel, from head to toe

Top of the Pops 22-11-79: Presenter: Dave Lee Travis

 (26) MATCHBOX – Rockabilly Rebel ®
(4) THE COMMODORES – Still (video)
(23) THE BOOMTOWN RATS – Diamond Smiles (video)
(48) THE PRETENDERS – Brass In Pocket
(17) ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – Confusion (video)
(10) MADNESS – One Step Beyond ®
(2) QUEEN – Crazy Little Thing Called Love (video)
(20) DYNASTY – I Don’t Want To Be A Freak (But I Can’t Help Myself) (video)
(13) HERB ALPERT – Rise (danced to by Legs & Co) ®
(15) GARY NUMAN – Complex (video)
(30) DAN-I – Monkey Chop ®
(1) DR. HOOK – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (video)


  1. Quite a good edition this week despite the voiceover only, and no presenter.

    The Boomtown Rats – good follow-up to I Don’t Like Mondays, but strangely did not do well in the charts, and this video was the only airing on TOTP for this song. I thought Sir Bob and the team made a good video and catchy lyrics, but alas it seemed to flop.

    ELO – This video for Confusion appears to be different from the one in the Discovery video release of montage of videos from the album, and I have never seen this TOTP one in this format before. Anyone know the nature of the two video versions?

    At this point, DLT ironically says there is “Confusion” as to why the BBC have him in voiceover only. Later in the show, DLT says that after all these years up to 1979 presenting TOTP, he cannot understand why he cannot present the show in the usual way

    Herb Alpert – Rosie of Legs & Co just looked so heavenly in that outfit.

  2. looks like i've missed out on "monkey chop" again - it seems i'll just have to keep playing the record on youtube... in fact, i'm going to do that right now!

  3. Certainly a real curio of an edition, this one, and significant for the first TOTP performance of the first new number 1 of the 80s. Brass in Pocket still stands out for me as the best thing the Pretenders ever did, and it is interesting to see that despite the strike they managed to appear in the studio - presumably this was recorded before the strike started.

    Not much else to get excited about, to be honest, though in some ways the Rats' video did look like a bit of a forerunner for Vienna a little more than a year later. The song itself was OK, but compared to I Don't Like Mondays it is rather forgettable. The Gary Numan tune isn't bad, particularly with the excellent harmonisation of violin and synthesiser, but it doesn't grab the attention in the way his two chart-toppers did. Interesting to see Dynasty in the flesh - I wonder if they owed anything to Chic, what with the two female singers and the word "freak" in the title.

    Nice to have Whole Lotta Love back over the chart rundown, but it's curious the photos were all in black and white - were the colour cameramen all on strike? This is of course a notorious strike among Dr Who fans, as it stopped the studio production of the Douglas Adams story Shada and ensured it would never be completed, not that this stopped the BBC releasing the unfinished story on VHS and DVD years later...

    1. Me thinks that The Pretenders studio performance was filmed a week earlier with the David Jensen show, but kept back for a future show, as David Jensen's show was top heavy to the brim for the full 40 minutes of the show.

      It is highly unlikely that with a BBC strike in time for DLT's show the following week, that the BBC staff would film only the Pretenders and not DLT himself!

      We must remember that at the time, DLT's antics were not seen to be anything unusual in a more male-dominated environment, only just waking up to Mrs Thatchers arrival to gradually change things forever, and lend DLT a big blow over 30 years later, to the point where the BBC now will not show any of his shows, not even in voiceover only!

    2. Yes, it's possible this was held over from Kid's show, but it may also have been always intended for DLT's show and recorded ahead of the main recording session, and hence DLT may not have been present. The intention might have been for him to add links when the bulk of the show was recorded, but of course that never happened!

    3. No, "I don't wanna be a freak" doesn't owe anything to "Le Freak", other than that the Freak was a short-lived disco dance. Chic were New York based, whereas Dynasty recorded on SOLAR (Sound of Los Angeles Records).

      There are many other disco songs from 1979 with "Freak" in the title, such as:
      A-Freak-A - Lemon
      Disco nights (Rock freak) - GQ
      Dance, freak and boogie - Nightlife Unlimited
      I'm a big freak (R U 1 2) - Phreek
      To Freak or Not to Freak - Stewart-Thomas Group
      Freak with me - Universal Robot Band
      Freak - Michael Zager Band

    4. thanks for the "freak" list darren: "disco nights" by gq has always been a favourite of mine, but the others were unknown to me so i checked them out on youtube:

      lemon: sounds more early 80''s than 1978 and is pretty cool (the man behind it is kenny lehman who was an early collaborator with the chic guys)

      nightlife unlimited: sounds like it's a steal from michael zager's "let's all chant" (or maybe it was the other way around)

      phreek: sounds like a precursor to hi-nrg and not really my thing

      stewart-thomas: generic disco with nothing standing out

      universal robot band: nowhere near as good as "keep your body workin" which they later recorded as kleeer

      michael zager: just as well this is the last one as i'm getting a bit punch drunk now! still, thanks again darren...

    5. I blame Thatcher for most of the ills of this country today but I don't think she can be held responsible for DLT being stitched up! If anything, the cultural background to this is Blair's doing.

    6. Hi Wilberforce,

      Yes, Kenny Lehman was part of the Chic family. On the "Lemon" LP (which features a very famous image of a woman's lips with a slice of lemon above) there is another track called "Freak on" which is equally good (the LP version is instrumental, the 12" version has vocals). Kenny also released another LP under the group name Roundtree, called "Discocide" (dance yourself to death) - definitely worth checking out.

      Most of the others are LP tracks. The most famous track by Phreek is "Weekend" which you may recall in a later version by Class Action. Universal Robot Band did "Dance and shake your tambourine" and a disco version of the Flintstones' theme.

    7. thanks darren - checked these out too and "weekend" is the best of the bunch. as for the flintstones theme: well, words fail me...

      by chance i came across another kenny lehman-associated recording recently - fellow correspondents, listen to this and see if it sounds familar (another reason to read nile rodgers' biography):

  4. Interesting to see that, Pretenders apart, this is an all top 30 show, I did a bit of digging to see which other acts climbing the top 75 missed out on a studio opportunity and who didn't make the mugshots with their singles. I came up with Marianne Faithfull, Def Leppard, Storm, Rocky Burmette and, unluckiest of all, Robert John, whose "Sad Eyes" was at its peak of 31 and might have missed out on being a bigger hot without the oxygen of a TOTP showing.

    1. ... and mr john had been releasing records for over 10 years by this point without (to my knowledge) ever making the british top 30 - his manager must have had sad eyes...

    2. Arthur, to follow on from your point here, the following week's show with Peter Powell was virtually all pop videos, with only the odd repeated studio performance from David Jensen's show two weeks earlier, making Powell's show almost similar to Channel 4's The Chart Show on Friday afternoons from 1984 onwards (composed only of music videos), which was also the only rival to TOTP after The Tube with Jools & Paula went down the tubes.

  5. Thanx Neil B for posting this. I have a vague recollection of -what I thought of, at the time as - The Top Of The Pops Strike. Minus points are, of course, an over-reliance of vids and repeat studio performances which are almost counter balanced by the major plus of not having to SEE Travis.

    Of the newbies on parade.. . . .

    Boomtown Rats. I was a fan of the Rats around this time and had a copy of the Tonic For The Troops album but if I was on Pointless and had to name a Rats hit single this would never have occured to me. A good song in need of a stronger chorus hook methinks.

    ELO. As usual with Jeff Lynne this is uber-produced apart, that is, from the rather weedy keyboard solo.

    Gary Numan. Another one that would have escaped me if it was asked on Pointless. ( I might not apply for the show, after all!)

    1. Great to see that in the summer of 2014, Jeff Lynne was to make a comeback in Hyde park to 50,000 fans, even to his own surprise, after succumbing to Chris Evans's pleads to do it and relaunch the band.

      The result of this success, has led to Lynne making plans for further outdoor shows of this proportion, and yes, with the flying saucer no less. Dr Who, eat your heart out!

  6. Decided to listen to Storm, who I expected to be a disco act or a heavy metal group. Turned out to be one of the most unapt names for an act, as the tune turned out to be a pleasant lovers' rock version of an Ashford and Simpson track, which I now remember hearing on Radio 1. Deserved to get a bit higher than number 36.

    I was remiss earlier - thanks again to Neil B for providing us with this contraband,.which I'll get round to watching soon, honestly!

  7. neil b comes to the rescue AGAIN - love it

  8. Do The Boomtown Rats mention Barbara Cartland in their song? Sounded like it. Don't remember this one at all, maybe I was fickle and had quickly moved on from their No. 1 hit?

    Is it true Chrissie Hynde hates Brass in Pocket now? It's not my favourite Pretenders tune, it just plods along not doing very much.

    Always good to see what the flying saucer is up to in these vintage ELO videos. The director seems to have got an early Christmas present with his fancy effects machine, and my goodness he's going to use it.

    I think Dynasty's song should have been called I Don't Want to Sing Le Freak (but I can't help myself). Nice to see them, though (to see them... NICE).

    Just noticed the beginning of Rise sounds like the beginning of the South Bank Show theme. There's a lot of the Norma Shearer at the end of The Women in Rosemary's arms out performance, I think. Had it been on TV that week?

    Don't recall Gaz's follow up to his No.1 hits either, though it did OK. Doesn't say very much on it, does he?

    Obviously a monkey chop is a disgusting alternative to a pork or lamb chop when the butcher's counter has run out.

    Looking at the Genome for this evening, the strike doesn't appear to have affected any of the other programmes that night.

    1. I don't think Genome can be relied upon for accurate listings of what was actually shown each night, only what was intended to be shown. The Radio Times listings were printed some time in advance, and for this issue it looks as if it was before the strike started.

    2. Your monkey chop reference reminded me of the special meat in "The League Of Gentlemen". We tend to have octopus at Christmas - that way, everybody gets a leg. Boom boom tish!

    3. it wouldn't surprise me if chrissie hynde hates "brass in pocket" now: after all, it's her/their "satisfaction" (does mick jagger hate "satisfaction"?)...

    4. I'm pretty sure I read Chrissie hated singing those lyrics, and that's the reason she went right off it.

  9. Just checked out the "proper" ELO video for Confusion on YT and apart from a Thief of Bagdad intro, it's much the same save for the lack of effects and animation clips. Odd there should be two versions.

    1. I'm still somewhat "Confused" (if you'll excuse the pun) as you are correct in that all the worldwide versions of this video and on Utube, and even on the Discovery DVD release, are the video with the thief of Baghdad at the beginning of the video discovering the stash of jewels, where the video has no flying saucers flying from start to end of video.

      However, this TOTP video I had never knew existed until now, i.e., a video with different special effects, and the flying saucer flying itself throughout the duration of the video. Does anyone know if this TOTP aired video is available anywhere to find in full, as it does not appear on tube anywhere?

    2. Looking at the TOTP version, I wonder if it was created for the show especially, to try out the video effects machine?


    3. The video for Last Train To London is available on iTunes among other ELO videos to collect. However, neither of the two versions of the Confusion video are, and this could because there is "confusion" (get it - haha) over which one is officially the promo video, because I can't figure it out myself, now that this other TOTP version has come into the "light" (get it?). Oh OK, suit yourself.

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  11. Matchbox's 'Rockabilly Rebel' was, rightly, voted one of the worst singles of the year by readers of 'Smash Hits'. Both musically and lyrically, it is trite. The members of Matchbox aren't exactly professors of English literature, are they?

    By contrast, Queen came up with their own original and polished take on rockabilly that peaked at No.2 here but became the first of their 2 US No.1 hits.

    The extended 'Na na na' outro to The Boomtown Rats' 'Diamond Smiles' may well have been inspired by T.Rex's 'Hot Love', but sounds very much like the E Street Band trying to spin out 'Born To Run'. From 'Rat Trap' onwards, Bruce Springsteen was undoubtedly the Rats' biggest musical inspiration (though I don't think he had much of an influence on the reggae-tinged 'Banana Republic').

    'Complex' was an accomplished and nowadays somewhat underrated offering from Mr Numan, though less instantly memorable than his two previous singles, hence the peak position of No.6.

  12. Brilliant work by Phil Bishop. Must have taken him almost as long to compile that show as it did to write the lyrics for Dynasty, Gary Numan and Dan-I combined. Not even a credit for DLT or Legs&Co at the end.

    Not one of the new singles on video were seen again on the show – The Rats, ELO and Gary Numan all went up for one more week before descending, while Dynasty abdicated to number 33 the following week!

    Bob Geldof clearly wanted to be part of the 2-Tone movement n that shirt. Took hours to get to the chorus. Simon Crowe’s not exactly as mad as Keith Moon, is he?

    The Pretenders’ pluggers did a great job getting this sole non-charter (and back at number 48, too) onto the programme. Were those the highest drumkit cymbals on the show thus far?

    I wonder why Robert John’s pluggers didn’t try harder for his top 31 hit to get on the show? After all, he made number 1 Stateside, so there must have been some form of video to foister on us.

    Any ELO fans here who would have preferred to see “Last Train To London” instead of “Confusion”? And how many Jeff Lynnes on one screen can you manage without flipping? The second video tonight with a side panel flip effect. How passé!

    The energy of Madness’s conga really showed up the static nature of the show. Still, at least “One Step Beyond” had get up and go, whereas Gary Numan’s last chance dance at the electric disco was just a bit too downbeat for my taste. Still, an unusual edition, and glad I saw it. Thanks, Neil.

    1. Don't know if I'd call myself an ELO fan, though it is nice to see them raised to the pantheon of classic pop nowadays (in spite of Jeff Lynne's attempts to "improve" his old material), but Last Train to London is a jauntier tune. Confusion's all right, the main electric piano riff is pretty majestic, though the cod reggae lapses remain naff.

  13. I didn't check the relevant charts properly, as there were actually two versions of "It's My House" battling it out for chart supremacy, with Diana Ross's earlier recording winning the battle of no winners by peaking at 32.

    Also, I forgot to mention the pic of Lena Martell was back the usual way round in this black and white chart rundown, which makes me wonder if the previous week's photos had all been loaded the wrong way round.....

  14. Trawling through the lower remnants of the week's chart reveals two more acts denied a possible TOTP appearance and rundown shot this week this week, some dance outfit called Atmosfear and Janis Ian with "Fly Too High".

    1. presumably the atmosfear track is "dancing in outer space", which i believe was a monster club hit. however i personally recommend their later effort "xtra special"...

  15. Sorry, everyone, I've been spouting worse rubbish than normal. I've found out that two of the acts I thought missed out on TOTP due to the studio strike did get onto the show a couple of weeks later (I won't say who for spoiler alert reasons). Stick that conical hat with a large "D" on my head and I'll stand in the corner.

  16. It's funny how the UK Gold videos, which were broadcast later, are worse quality than copies of the original broadcast, which presumably date from 1979.

    In particular, the Dynasty video on this copy is almost unwatchable. Fortunately, the full video for that song is elsewhere on YouTube:

    1. VHS vs. Betamax.... let's not go there ;o)

  17. This is an interesting one on several counts:

    - the chart pictures in black & white - it's unbelievable that the BBC still had working B&W equipment in 1979.

    - DLT's laid back style in contrast to his normal TOTP demeanour, a precursor to the Golden Oldie Picture Show?

    - this was the time when 'promos' were morphing into 'videos'. Although the use of videotape instead of film took off the previous year, we are now into the period when the effects-laden 'video' we became accustomed to from the 1980s onwards was really starting.

    - why just the Pretenders with no audience? Was this a rehearsal they managed to get 'in the can' before the strike started?

    And it gives me a good opportunity to catch up!

    Matchbox were every bit as fake as Lena Martell, but were part of the British rockabilly revivalism which had already been going for about a decade. Shakin' Stevens & The Sunsets were also a part of it. Although Matchbox did make the big time I can remember hearing that they were all a bit pissed off when an upstart American group called the Stray Cats stole their thunder, but grudgingly admitted that it was their music in the first place!

    An absolutely brilliant video from the Boomtown Rats, featured on the 1979 Rock 'n' Roll Years VHS compilation. It's both glamourous and creepy at the same time, but obviously didn't follow the lyrics precisely!

    Another chance to see the Legs dancing to Rise - makes a nice change from disco bopping.

    Gary Numan has had his 'pop' hits and is now going 'arty'. Nice phasey analog synth, though. Probably can't do that on today's kit.

    I don't remember Monkey Chop at all. It sounds like a cross between Bananarama's 'Cruel Summer' and Baltimora's 'Tarzan Boy', so it's fair to say that it was ahead of its time.

    It appears that Ray Sawyer is giving a 'knowing' look after the line "it's hard" - he would possibly be winking if he could.

  18. Thanks to Neil for the link.

    One of the best in recent months - and interesting to watch.
    I don't remember ever seeing either the Boomtown Rats or ELO videos before.
    Also, don't remember the Gary Numan track, although I recognised the title! - sounded a bit like Tubular Bells.

  19. It's taken me a while to get round to this one.

    Such a shame that there are 3 I really like here that we don't get to see on the TV - Dan-I (again!), Boomtown Rats and ELO.

    'Confusion' is probably my favourite ELO song ('Discovery' being my fave album of theirs) and I really like the video. Nice early use of fractals there if I'm not mistaken. If it really was done specially for TOTP then it's an even bigger shame.

    Of course, it wouldn't have taken too much effort to have overdubbed the show with a current DJ (Blackburn being the most obvious candidate, much as I can't stand him these days) in order to show it, but that was asking a bit much of our current uncaring unsharing BBC.

    1. I just watched the two different video versions of ELO's confusion, and I noticed that on the commercial version released on the Discovery DVD and on YouTube, the first verse of the song has replaced the group with the Thief of Baghdad discovering the hidden jewels, but in the TOTP version without this scene, you get to see the band from the very first verse, which is why I am keen to find out if there is a commercially available copy of the TOTP version anywhere, as this version also with the flying saucer flying throughout the video, must be the original, which was then covered over for the Discovery video release with that turban guy at the beginning.